Tag Archives: Denmark

Danish newspaper’s refusal to apologise to China over Coronavirus image and the G-20 virtual Summit

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In January this year, China had sought an apology from the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten and Danish artist Niels Bo Bojesen for publishing an image of the Chinese flag with its yellow stars represented by Coronavirus but the Danish newspaper chose not to oblige.

After the Chinese embassy had issued a statement addressing the newspaper and the artist responsible for the Coronavirus image asking them to apologise to the Chinese people for publishing the image, titled “Coronavirus”, Jacob Nybroe, the Jyllands-Posten Editor had responded by stating in the public domain:

“We cannot apologise for something that we don’t believe is wrong….We have no intention of demeaning or mocking the situation in China and we don’t think the drawing does that.”

Chinese Embassy in Denmark had said in its statement, “Without any sympathy and empathy, it (the newspaper) has crossed the bottom line of civilised society and the ethical boundary of free speech and offends human conscience,”

Notwithstanding the tiff between the Danish newspaper and China and the demand for an apology over the Coronavirus image, what cannot be kept out of focus is that the Corona pandemic has its root in Wuhan, China. The entire world knows that China had delayed notifying the World Health Organisation about the situation in Wuhan and everyone has reason to be concerned about the much discussed “goings on” in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

At a time when thousands have perished, so many countries have gone in for total lockdown, global economy has plummeted, and humankind is in the midst of a global war against COVID 19, which some even call the Chinese Virus, the G-20 leaders have chosen to remain quiet about the threat posed by countries indulging in research or maybe even production of biological weapons despite the Biological Weapons Convention.

The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), which came into force in 1975, is a legally binding treaty that outlaws biological arms, but after Coronavirus has spread across the world, it was widely felt that the G-20 leaders would call for an international mechanism to inspect the Wuhan Institute of virology and also a thorough investigation into the immediate and primary causes leading to the Coronavirus crisis.

Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping, while addressing the virtual Summit of G20 leaders on COVID 19, this past Thursday, 26 March, called for an all-out global war against the pandemic. To tide over the adverse impact on global economy, he also proposed tariff cuts and removal of trade barriers.

“This is a virus that respects no borders. The outbreak we are battling is our common enemy. All must work together to build a strongest global network of control and treatment that the world has ever seen,” Xi said.

Xi went on to observe that the community of nations must move a swift pace to stop the virus from spreading.

China will share its knowledge, go for joint research and development of drugs and vaccines, and also give assistance to other countries hit by the pandemic, Xi underscored.

Xi drew attention to China’s online COVID-19 Knowledge Centre, and said that it will be open to all countries.

US President Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump who earlier had adopted a belligerent posture and was all out for trade barriers and a stiff tariff regime for China, took a sudden U-turn in his stand last week as he joined the leaders of the Group of 20 nations – the G-20 – for combating the Coronavirus pandemic by unanimously calling for “a transparent, robust, coordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity.”

There are now more than half a million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 20,000 deaths. These are tragic numbers but let’s also remember that around the world more than 100,000 people have recovered. – Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO, 27 March 2020

Addressing the G-20 Summit, Dr. Ghebreyesus, said the world must fight, unite and ignite; fight to stop the virus with every resource at its disposal, unite to confront the pandemic together. “We’re one humanity with one common enemy. No country can fight alone. We can only fight together.

The joint statement by G-20 leaders says:

  • We will share timely and transparent information; exchange epidemiological and clinical data; share materials necessary for research and development; and strengthen health systems globally.”
  • Consistent with the needs of our citizens, we will work to ensure the flow of vital medical supplies, critical agricultural products, and other goods and services across borders, and work to resolve disruptions to the global supply chains.”

The resolve to pool knowledge and resources and go for enhanced cooperation between nations to combat the pandemic is laudable. G-20 leaders, however, do not appear interested at this stage to bell the cat and act decisively to find the answer to one big question: Who is responsible for the origin and spread of Coronavirus?


Coronavirus

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus.

Amongst children the data that we’ve seen from a number of countries is that the majority of children that are infected are experiencing mild disease, but we do have reports and there are some publications now that describe severe disease in children – Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO, 27 March 2020

There’s no question that the elderly and those with underlying conditions have been affected much more than other age groups but we’ve certainly spoken here before about the age profile of patients, the fact that in Korea 20% of the deaths were people under 60 years of age; in Italy the fact that up to 15% of people in intensive care were under 50 years of age. – Dr Michael Ryan, WHO, 27 March 2020

From the epidemiologic data that we have, from the viral-shedding data that we have we know that themajority of transmission, the drivers of transmission for COVID-19 are people who are symptomatic. That includes people who are in the very early stages of symptoms and the viral-shedding data supports that in the earlier stages of disease when people are feeling just a
little bit unwell and they haven’t yet had pneumonia and they’re certainly not hospitalised yet;those individuals are the ones that are driving transmission.
So it is really important that we follow all these measures where we keep our physical distance. Transmission of COVID-19 is through droplets, it is not airborne. Therefore someone who has these small liquid particles that come out of their mouth; they travel a certain distance and then they fall so that’s why we recommend the physical distance, to be separated so that you remove the opportunity for that virus to actually pass from one person to another. – Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO, 27 March 2020.

Every infection of COVID-1 presents an opportunity for onward transmission so even in younger populations if you do have mild disease and you think it’s no big deal, what the big deal is that you may transmit to somebody else who may be part of that vulnerable population, who may advance to that severe disease and who may die.
So every single person has a role to play in this outbreak in preventing themselves from getting infected and we’ve listed a number of ways in which you can do that which involve hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, physical distancing, adhering to the recommendations of the national governments. – Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO, 27 March 2020.

Most people infected with the COVID-19 virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and recover without requiring special treatment.  Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer are more likely to develop serious illness.

The best way to prevent and slow down transmission is be well informed about the COVID-19 virus, the disease it causes and how it spreads. Protect yourself and others from infection by washing your hands or using an alcohol based rub frequently and not touching your face. 

The COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).

At this time, there are no specific vaccines or treatments for COVID-19.

Values and Ethics in Media and Mass Communication

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Anoop Swarup

Anoop_Swarup
Anoop Swarup

Oscar Wilde, the very popular Anglo Irish Dramatist and Poet who lived from 1854 to 1900, more than a century ago, lamented “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing”. How true even today, I observed while addressing the distinguished gathering at the Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication at the end of a two day national seminar on Values and Ethics in Media and Mass Communication. I could grasp that there has been an extensive debate and brainstorming on specific values and ethical principles as also a variety of approaches to address the standards of media whether it was radio and TV, film, theatre, the arts, print and now the revolutionary social and digital media, and the internet. Values as perceived by us may differ from an individual’s or societal perceptions and may be absolute or relative but the assumption of which does form the basis for ethical action in a society. Also let us not forget that though principal values may have foundational values it is the physiological values that are more subjective than objective that influence the individuals and the society as a whole and it is the media alone that has a critical role in defining these.

Media and mass CommunicationI could see that journalistic ethics do tend to dominate media ethics, almost to the exclusion of other areas perhaps rightly so, as the issue of news manipulation by both the governments and the corporations through censorship and ownership may only just be the tip of the iceberg as there have been more subtle methods of manipulations both voluntary and involuntary across the globe. Ironically enough and much to the chagrin of the masses those being manipulated may not even be aware of it. If I may remind that our freedom in large part depends in continuation of a free press which remains the strongest guarantor of a free society. Obviously we have to be watchful that the truth is never compromised on the edifice of values. Fortunately our founding fathers enshrined these values in the Constitution but it is the truth that shall prevail even in public interest – a term not easy to define that has been much used and abused and may range from public morality to law and order, and from military secrets to seditious behavior.

We should not forget that privacy is a fundamental right that conflicts invariably with rights to liberty, free speech and expression guaranteed under the Constitution. Entertainment and the depiction of violence and sex that borders from sensationalisation to extreme fantasy and compromises, both in terms of ethics and the truth, has now emerged as one of the core issues with the onset of the new media. Virtually every day, on the digital media, be it the Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, or the newer applications on the rise, that we witness the paparazzi scandals, the rape episodes and even the fauxtography and morphing episodes that seriously compromise an individual’s privacy. We may cite and derive innumerable examples that were in the limelight, be it the recent gang rape of a Swiss tourist, the Dimapur lynching, and the Nirbhaya case that became a landmark for legislative reform and shook the nations conscience, not to speak of the immense controversy generated globally by Google’s censorship in China, the Charlie Hebdo’s satirical cartoons and the linked terror attack in Paris, Jyllands Posten Muhammad Cartoons in Denmark, Jayson Blair scandal, Adnan Hajj photographs or the sensational slayings by the ISIL, including that of the young Jordanian pilot that went viral on social media or back at home the recent documentary on India’s daughter televised by the BBC and the list goes on.

No wonder the shock and awe value of the audio visual media may always compromise ethics and be in conflict with the law of the land as social and digital media now are in the hands of every individual who have now overtaken even the undercover and investigative reporters who kept the law enforcement agencies on tenterhook till recently. The conflict on issues of perception and confidentiality of news sources with our values and ethics make the exercise of a code of ethics a very complex one for either the Censor Board or the Press Council. Let us not forget that the issuance of a circular notifying the no go words and phrases by the Central Board of Film Certification became a ugly war even among the very members of the Board. Advertising and placement of products in entertainment and news media where huge sums may pass hands to influence perceptions and to create stereotypes is a controversial practice that remains as yet largely unregulated. Negative perceptions as also stereotypes of tastes and taboos in the name of artistic freedom, may promote socially undesirable behavior through the negative portrayal of women, ethnicity and affluence.

It is an irony of sorts, recently a popular Hindi Newspaper Dainik Bhaskar publicly proclaimed ‘no negative news on Mondays’. Let us understand that normative ethics is more often than not about moral values, as in the name of art, media may break with existing norms to shock the audience for better TRP ratings. If we go by the words of Hetherington ‘anything is news if it threatens peace and prosperity’ as we see that now even in our national media, the distinction between news and views does not exist anymore. This is more obvious than ever before as during the prime time on the television, on a channel such as ‘Times Now’ where at times even with Arnab Goswami anchoring the show, the viewers find it difficult to even understand the issues at hand leave alone the news or the views at stake. The overzealous anchors in their rush for better viewership in these highly competitive days do go overboard and make the very critical issues at hand, into a shouting match between the invited parties. Invariably we end up listening only to the views and the statements made by none else but the anchor alone, a constant band of those who are invariably broughton board as experts and the political rivals, whose job is only to defend the indefensible. So we mostly end up either cocked up or vegetating before our TV screens allowing ourselves to be bombarded with a lot of cacophony. Many panel dcussions on TV news channels have reminded me of Shakespeare and his proverbial quote from Macbeth: “full of sound and fury…..signifying nothing.

In a value Orientation survey also known as Schwartz Value Survey sometime back it was revealed that exposure to media – print, visual and internet – is directly linked to the value orientation of individuals and the society at large. Political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Christian Wetzel in their Worlds Value Survey created a scatter plot with values such as traditional ones to more rational ones on Y Axis and the ones such as survival values to self expression and life quality. Interestingly enough India along with south Asia occupied the middle of the graph with the United States at bottom and the protestant world on the diagonal top, whereas the Confucian world was on top of the Y Axis and the Latin American world was more towards the X axis. Thus the media in democracies shares a very critical relationship with the state that changes with time though hallmarked and constitutionally enshrined. Yes, ethical guidelines, regulation and ratings may help the exercise of freedom by individual journalists and the people at large but eternal vigilance is a must for the health of the society and the country. Professor Harold Lasky once commented ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of democracy’. Thus I may mention that good governance by the representatives in a democratic state has to be transparent and accountable and is best safeguarded only by a watchful fourth estate. Let us also be mindful that values do change over time and may vary from societies and cultures but the principal values and ethics are eternal.

With great interest I watched the interview of Justice Markandey Katju, the Chairman of Press Council of India by Karan Thapar. He talked of his disappointment on the negative role of media in India. He asserted that the media was anti-people in an obvious reference to the several episodes of paid news, he felt that the media is also dividing people on communal and religious lines by sensationalizing news such as the desecration of places of worship and above all it is promoting superstitions in a oblique reference to the several television channels promoting astrology and “vaastu” that does not promote scientific temper in society. Quoting Diderot he said that ‘Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entails of the last priest’. Yes, India no doubt is in a transition phase from a Industrial society to a post industrial society and from a feudal set up to a modern progressive country where we do need enlightened men with the highest integrity and intellect of the likes of Thomas Paine and Rousseau who had reformed the western world.

We may debate a code of ethics eternally and promulgate a new Regulatory Authority but it is for us as a society that we should never forget what Edmund Burke had to say ‘all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’.

Friends of the Lower Mekong and the sustainabilty initiative

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Xe DonWashington DC, Feb. 3: Friends of the Lower Mekong, a donor coordination group, have come together with the countries of the Lower Mekong to discuss the connection between water resources, energy needs, and food security.

Carrying forward this objective, US Counselor Tom Shannon and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Ambassador David Thorne led a U.S. delegation to the Extraordinary Meeting of the Friends of the Lower Mekong in Pakse, Laos on Monday. Accompanying Mr. Shannon and Ambassador Thorne were representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Energy.

The health of the Mekong River is essential to the economic growth and sustainable development of the region. In Cambodia, the Mekong supports the rich biodiversity of a watershed that provides more than 60 percent of the protein intake for the entire country. The river irrigates the “rice bowl” in Vietnam, where more than half of the nation’s rice production is concentrated in the provinces that make up the Mekong delta. In Laos, Thailand, and Burma, the Mekong is an important artery for transportation, a water source for aquaculture and agriculture, and a generator of electricity.

Meeting participants discussed the challenges of ensuring a future in which economic growth does not come at the expense of clean air, clean water, and healthy ecosystems. The meeting brought together senior officials from Laos, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam alongside representatives from the United States, the Mekong River Commission, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union, and the governments of Australia, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

At the meeting, the U.S. delegation announced several new initiatives, including the launch of USAID’s Sustainable Mekong Energy Initiative (SMEI). Through the SMEI, the United States will promote the use of alternative energy and low-emission technologies. The delegation also announced that the Department of State will organize and send a Sustainable Energy Business Delegation to the region later this year.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will provide technical assistance on hydropower management and the Mississippi River Commission signed a five year extension to its agreement with the Mekong River Commission to exchange knowledge, information, and best practices. In conjunction, Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne announced that the State Department will contribute $500,000 in support of a Mekong River Commission study on the impacts of hydropower on the community and environment.

In a joint statement, the United States agreed to collaborate with the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, and others to support development of a national energy grid inLaos. When completed, this national energy grid will help provide stable, reliable electricity to millions of people throughout the country. Counselor Shannon announced that the State Department is working with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Government of Laos to develop a “smart hydro” project that will increase the efficiency and environmental sustainability of its existing small hydropower assets and help build technical capacity in hydropower management.

The Friends of the Lower Mekong will also work together to strengthen the capacity of Lower Mekong countries to more effectively implement social and environmental safeguards such as environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental analyses. The U.S. Government, Asian Development Bank, World Bank, Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and the Government of Australia plan to jointly develop a Regional Impact Assessment Training Center at the Asian Institute of Technology Center in Vietnam.

Under the auspices of the Lower Mekong Initiative, the United States is continuing successful projects like Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) to provide technical assistance to the region on land and water use management, renewable energy, and infrastructure development. This year, $1.5 million will be spent on SIM projects in the Mekong region.

US secretary of State John Kerry even shared his personal vision for promoting sustainabilty of the Mekong in an op-ed on Foreign Policy

 


Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and the People’s Republic of China to the Northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the South, and Thailand to the West.

Pakxe is the capital and most populous city in the southern province of Champasak, making it the third most populous city in Laos. Located at the confluence of the Xe Don and Mekong Rivers (wikipedia)